Life: 13 weeks at a time - Living Life as a Travel Nurse

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By The Gypsy Nurse

April 11, 2023

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Life: 13 Weeks at a Time – as a Travel Nurse

Working as a Travel Nurse, most of our life is planned out in 13-week blocks. Whether we are planning for the “during a travel assignment” or the “between travel assignments,” we still schedule our lives around our contracts or our contracts around our lives. It doesn’t matter how you prefer to look at it. Whether it’s a horrible contract (because we all have had them) or a flawless one, we all start counting down the weeks, shifts, or even hours.

Many start counting down from day #1! If it’s a terrible contract, it just brings a reassurance, knowing it’s only temporary, and you have to endure X amount of days until you hit the road home or off to the next new (and hopefully better) adventure. If it ends up being a flawless contract, full of adventures with locals or fellow travel nurses, it could be a sad countdown- knowing that the fun has to end in 13 weeks, sadly.

I can survive anything! (Can’t I?)

One benefit of travel nursing is that we live and survive by the mentality, “I can do anything for 13 weeks”- good, bad, or horrible. You are never more than 13 weeks away from that sometimes much-needed break from nursing. Considering the high level of burnout in nurses, that break between contracts is an invaluable perk. Working staff, our threshold of ‘dealing’ with things had to be high.

We had to maintain a positive attitude and go to work every day, sometimes dreading dealing with a difficult co-worker. As a travel nurse, you can survive knowing that you only have to deal with that difficult staff member for 13 weeks, and you may never have to see them again. However, most likely, there could be a difficult staff member at the next travel assignment. You never know. Going in with a positive attitude and knowing that there could always be, and usually will be, some things that are not ideal, but you CAN survive anything!

Holidays- to Work or Not to Work

Holidays can be an exciting time, full of family and tradition. Many travel nurses choose not to travel during December because they want to be home for Christmas. That is the beauty of life as a gypsy nurse; you can decide if you want to work over the holidays or not. That holiday could be Christmas, July 4th, or even Mother’s Day. You can decide and create the perfect scenario that fits your life and your wishes.

We are lucky to pre-plan our lives 13 weeks at a time; no forms to fill out, requesting off, or dreading the schedule being posted to see if your request was granted. I know travel nurses who work out their contracts so that the contract ends before the holidays, and they do not accept a new one until after the holidays are over. Travel during the holiday season is a nightmare, as is attempting to see all of my family members, so I prefer to travel during the holidays. It’s just less stress for me that way. Those who live in one of the ‘serious’ winter states, such as Michigan or Indiana, prefer to be on a contract in Arizona or Hawaii during the winter.

Back-to-Back Contracts, Or Mini Vacations

By living life 13 weeks at a time, travel nurses can choose if they will work back-to-back contracts or if they will take time off between contracts, and if so, how much. That’s the beauty of travel nursing! You are not restricted by how much time off you have available in the time pool or what you might have earned from your employer. Travel nurses do not have to be limited. You can take as much time as you need/want off between contracts. Some people take 2 weeks to rebound and recoup from work. High school or college graduations? Family vacations? Maybe your first grandchild will be born, and you want to be there for the first 6-8 weeks to help out.  Travel nursing affords you the flexibility to pre-plan around and in between contracts.

Avoiding Boredom

13 weeks

Some people get bored easily; if that is you, then travel nursing might be the right path for you. Thirteen weeks is the perfect amount of time on the job to avoid boredom. Most people dream of having the luxury of getting to pick and choose where you live for 13 weeks.

People not in the travel nurse profession often ask, “What is it like living life 13 weeks at a time?”  Here is a brief synopsis of the feelings that most travel nurses and I have:

Week #1 Excitement/Fear/Introductions.

The first week will usually fly by as you attend orientation and try to find your way around the facility and back and forth to work. Locating amenities like a local grocery store, gym, post office, etc. Simple tasks like remembering everyone’s names are difficult for me for the first several weeks!

Week #2-4 Learning curve.

With every new job comes the angst of learning your routine and new policies and procedures. The amount of time varies from person to person. I’ve found that my average is 2-4 weeks.

Weeks # 4-6 Finding your rhythm

For me, weeks 4-6 are when I begin to fall into a good groove on the job. I can finally find most of the supplies and know how to contact the physicians and the pharmacy. I have found my confidence and can lose some of the ‘newbie’ jitters. This is also the time you can usually start to get to know the staff. During the weeks prior, I usually have no extra time to concentrate on getting into my own routine and learning where everything is. I finally have time to breathe, slow down, and say hello to co-workers. This is generally when you realize that your contract is already half over!

Weeks #6-10: Sightseeing mode kicks in!

Work has gotten easier, I am into my routine, and my level of mental exhaustion has tapered off. This is when I start to get antsy and have to get out and see things! I recommend that you take a weekend to explore nearby touristy stops and try to schedule walking tours of the city. Make plans with co-workers or other travel nurses to meet up for dinner or drinks. This is the best time to get out and enjoy being in a new city.

Weeks 10-13 Short-timers start to kick in.

This is why I have found that things can become monotonous for me. I’m feeling the pangs of boredom kicking in while I am at work. That certain co-worker is beginning to grate on your nerves. Your frustration level is starting to increase. You might even begin to become frustrated with the lack of __________ (fill in the blank) on the job. You know what I mean. It’s going to be all the little things you did not have time to focus on during the first nine weeks because you focused on finding that all-important rhythm.

But there is good news!

This is generally when you begin planning and searching for the next travel assignment so that you can start all over again for another 13 weeks! You will start chatting with your recruiter and seeking the next adventure (or planning for that much-needed time off). Either way, your thoughts will be focused on the ‘next 13 weeks.

If you’re like me (and most travel nurses) and get bored easily, thrive on change, adventure, and the unknown…maybe you should try living life 13 weeks at a time.

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

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